Wanted: A Few Good Teacher-Preparation Programs
The Department of Education has announced a competition that aims to showcase the nation's most successful teacher-preparation programs.
The federal government is asking colleges and other organizations that provide teacher preparation to prove their worth by linking their graduates to gains made in the classroom, said Terry Knecht Dozier, the department's senior adviser on teaching and a former national Teacher of the Year. Teacher-education programs will also be required to show that they are constantly improving their curricula and that students have mastered the skills necessary to be effective teachers before graduating.
"We're hoping to change the conversation about how teacher education is evaluated," Ms. Dozier said last week.
The contest was developed by the Education Department as a complement to a law authorized in 1998 that mandates that all states and institutions of higher education report annually on the quality of their teacher-preparation programs and licensure and certification requirements, Ms. Dozier said. ("Teacher Ed. Riled Over Federal Plan," Aug. 4, 1999.)
For the new competition, entrants must provide "compelling evidence" that teachers who graduated from their programs have positively affected student learning in either reading or mathematics at the elementary school level or in middle or high school math courses, Ms. Dozier said.
Education programs must also show that their teachers have mastery over course content as well as general and content-specific pedagogical knowledge and skills. The programs must evaluate prospective teachers at the completion of their studies and once they are teaching, she said. Moreover, graduates must project good attitudes toward their students and the profession.
The Education Department will assess the teacher-preparation programs during site visits. Evaluators will include teacher-educators, mathematicians, math teachers, reading experts, K-12 teachers, superintendents, principals, and school board members. Education programs will be required to collect some information about their former students from the school districts where they are teaching.
Five teacher-preparation programs will be honored for their work, Ms. Dozier said, by being showcased at conferences sponsored by the department and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. Winners will be announced in October.
Beyond Test Scores
Measuring the success of teachers in a classroom is a "monumental" and important task, said Leo W. Pauls, the executive director of the Renaissance Group, a coalition of 22 colleges and universities whose members will graduate one of every 12 teachers in the nation next spring. The federal government recently awarded the organization a $6.5 million Title II grant over the next five years to come up with a better way of teaching future educators.
Teacher evaluation is often based on students' scores on standardized tests—a move that doesn't necessarily reflect teacher performance, Mr. Pauls contended.
One of the best methods of testing the quality of teachers is to look at the progress students have made in portfolios they compile over the school year, Mr. Pauls said.
Another technique that works well, he said, is to ask educators to write about their experiences in the classroom and assess their own performance.
Applications for the competition must be submitted to the department by July 3. Details on the National Awards Program for Effective Teacher Preparation, including the application, are available from the Department of Education. (The application requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.) Applications and information are also available from Sharon Horn in the department's office of educational research and improvement at (202) 219-2203.
Vol. 19, Issue 38, Page 22